Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Return to Domesticity: Vinegar, biscotti, consume and the art of kitchen forgiveness

By way of getting cozy with the dark days of winter now that the holiday hullabaloo has subsided, I'm returning to the domestic arts.  This week is all about homemade: biscotti, vinegar and clarified chicken broth, which from my days as a waitress at the Somerset Club in Boston I recall is also called consume.

The vinegar was darned easy.  Nothing about this is exact. 
  • Mix some leftover red wine with a few cups of unpasteurized, unfiltered vinegar from the health food store.
  • Put it in an open glass container (don't use metal).  I used old mason jars.
  • Tie cheese cloth over the top to keep out bugs and dirt.
  • Put the jug somewhere kind of dark with air temperatures that hover between 70-80 degrees (f)
  • Stir it once in awhile and taste.  
  • After a few weeks or months, when you're happy with the taste, pasteurize it by boiling it at 170 degrees (f) for about 10 minutes.
  • Store it in glass bottles or jars
Biscotti is the most forgiving cookie.  The recipe I used combines "Gourmet" with something from the internet.  The same basic recipe conjured up Apricot Biscotti, Chocolate Chip biscotti, and Spicy chili pineapple biscotti.

The key to clear consume is egg white!  Whip 1 or 2 egg whites mix that with the egg shells and about 1/4 cup water.  Stir it into the cloudy chicken broth and heat to a slow boil for about 10-20 minutes.  Strain it through cheese cloth.  There are a number of workable approaches to this basic idea.  Julia Childs recommneds 4 egg whites... maybe.  Some people add julienne carrots to the mix to add more flavor to the broth.  Others only heat one side of the pan hoping to increase the roll of the boil.  One of the Iron Chefs reportedly repeated the boiling and straining process about 4-5 times with the same batch of soup.  Anyway you look at it, it seems to work.  Another rather forgiving kitchen art.

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